1) For the sponge, mix yeast and flour in your mixer until combined. Add water and mix with the paddle attachment until a sticky dough starts to form. Make sure all of the ingredients are mixed together well. Cover with plastic and let rise for 2 hours. I place the mixing bowl in my oven (if cool) with the interior light on.
2) After 2 hours, add the remaining ingredients for the dough to the sponge mixture: salt, honey and yeast, and mix to combine. Add flour, 1 cup at a time until left with 3/4 and slowly work into dough until it forms a stiff ball, blended evenly. The dough will be extremely thick, and you'll want to use your dough hook to knead it.
3) Divide dough into 12 equal pieces, about 4 1/2 ounces each. I use my kitchen scale to measure accurately. Work each piece into a ball so that there are no holes or creases in the dough, pulling the edges down into the bottom so that a tight skin forms over the ball. Place all 12 pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rest and rise for 20 minutes.
4) Shape each ball into a bagel by working your thumb through the center and pulling the dough all along the middle to stretch. You should be able to work around each bagel so that there is enough room for 4 fingers to fit through the center. The bagels will rise, so the holes may seem extremely large at first, but they'll tighten up over night. Place each bagel on an oiled piece of parchment lining your baking sheet, spacing them an inch apart. For this recipe, I have to use 2 standard baking sheets, and I fit 6 bagels on each sheet. (I don't use spray oil, it gets in the air and sticks to ceiling fans and moldings and is a bad idea to use in your home, lightly oil each piece of parchment with vegetable oil on a napkin to coat).
6) Cover each baking sheet with plastic and allow 20 - 30 minutes to rise, and place them in your refrigerator for 24 hours, or overnight.
7) The next morning, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Using your widest pot, fill it with enough water to cover 2 bagels and bring to a boil. Add baking soda. (Baking soda is used to give alkaline to the water which replicates the flavors we get in store bought bagels).
8) Place enough bagels into the pot so that they float evenly on the surface of the boiling water in 1 layer. Boil each bagel for 2 minutes per side and flip to boil for another 2 minutes on the other side. Sprinkle cornmeal on the same parchment-lined baking sheet that the bagels rose on overnight. Remove bagels from the water and place them back on baking sheet. Add toppings to the bagels immediately after removing from water to allow them to stick. I sprinkle with cracked sea salt, dried onion and sesame seeds. Proceed to follow these steps until all bagels are boiled and covered in topping.
9) Once oven is preheated place baking sheets inside and bake for 5 minutes with the pans on two different shelves. Reduce heat to 450, switch shelves, rotate pans, and bake for 5 more minutes until brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Wait until completely cool to toast and serve.
Preparation time: 24 hour(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12